Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Rehearsal in Serial Memory for Visual-Spatial Information: Evidence from Eye Movements

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Rehearsal in Serial Memory for Visual-Spatial Information: Evidence from Eye Movements

Article excerpt

It is well established that rote rehearsal plays a key role in serial memory for lists of verbal items. Although a great deal of research has informed us about the nature of verbal rehearsal, much less attention has been devoted to rehearsal in serial memory for visual-spatial information. By using the dot task-a visual-spatial analogue of the classical verbal serial recall task-with delayed recall, performance and eyetracking data were recorded in order to establish whether visual-spatial rehearsal could be evidenced by eye movement The use of eye movement as a form of rehearsal is detectable (Experiment 1), and it seems to contribute to serial memory performance over and above rehearsal based on shifts of spatial attention (Experiments 1 and 2).

In the last 4 decades, the capacity to remember the order of events over the short term has been extensively investigated; however, most of the research has been devoted to the study of verbal serial memory. There is a substantial body of work on the nature of verbal rehearsal and its contribution to serial memory for lists of verbal items (see, e.g., Longoni, Richardson, & Aiello, 1993). It is widely assumed that some form of rehearsal contributes to memory; many researchers view rehearsal as a speech-based or articulatory system involved in recycling representations over time (e.g., Baddeley, Thomson, & Buchanan, 1975; Schweickert & Boruff, 1986), whereas others conceptualize rehearsal as a mechanism-cyclic reinsantiation-that produces internal copies of to-be-remembered stimuli (e.g., Farrell & Lewandowsky, 2002; Nairne, 2002). There is ample evidence that rehearsal plays a role in serial memory of verbal material, but it is still unclear whether there is a similar mechanism in serial memory for visual-spatial information (see, e.g., Awh & Jonides, 2001; Baddeley, 1986). Empirical work directed at examining rehearsal mechanisms in the spatial domain is still at an early stage. The purpose of the present experiments was twofold: to further examine whether there is some form of visualspatial rehearsal and to establish whether eye movement is a good candidate for such a mechanism.

Some researchers have suggested that rehearsal for visual-spatial information is based on eye movement (e.g., Baddeley, 1986), and others that the active system responsible for spatial rehearsal is also involved in the planning and production of body movement (including the eyes; see, e.g., Logic, 1995), whereas still others have proposed that spatial-attentional mechanisms-shifts of spatial selective attention-are involved in the maintenance of visual-spatial information (e.g., Awh & Jonides, 2001; Smyth, 1996). Awh and his collaborators (Awh & Jonides, 2001; see also Postle, Awh, Jonides, Smith, & D'Esposito, 2004) have argued that rehearsal for visual-spatial information involves shifts of selective attention to the location of interest. Temporary maintenance of a single location is impaired if attention is attracted away from that location during a short retention interval (e.g., Awh, Jonides, & Reuter-Lorenz, 1998). The entire line of research carried out by Awh and his collaborators employed short-term memory (STM) tasks that required recognition for a single item. Their interest was centered on the temporary retention of item information, rather than on serial memory, whereas most, if not all, of the theoretical development on verbal rehearsal has been based on serial memory. Lawrence, Myerson, and Abrams (2004) suggested that the mechanisms of spatial rehearsal involved in serial memory might be different from those involved in the short-term retention of a single item (see also Zimmer, Speiser, & Seidler, 2003).

According to Logie (1995), active spatially based rehearsal is closely linked to the planning of movement. The latter claim originates mainly from demonstrations of concurrent conflicts between memory tasks involving visual-spatial information and different forms of task-irrelevant movement, such as sequential tapping (e. …

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